With shootings and other violent crime soaring in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has spent much of the last week focused on social justice stunts like painting a “Black Lives Matter” mural in front of Trump Tower and banning all large gatherings with the exception of anti-police protests. On Friday, however, the mayor announced his big idea to combat the growing violence, and said it will be rolled out immediately starting in Harlem this weekend.
The “Take Back The Block” plan released by the mayor actually calls for an increase in law enforcement in high-crime areas, but de Blasio would much rather talk about the un-armed citizens that the mayor says are key to the effort’s success.
De Blasio said shell-shocked residents would “see a combination of things happening,” including “increased NYPD presence at hotspots at key locations, more patrol officers on foot, in vehicles — but also more community presence.”
“Because that is the key to this: community leaders, committee organizations, walking with police officers, showing common cause,” he said.
The NY Post spoke with several criminal justice experts about de Blasio’s plan, all of whom panned the proposals laid out by the mayor.
“I think he deserves to tell the city that it’s his policy that is getting people killed,” said former NYPD cop Eugene O’Donnell who’s now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“He stood down anti-crime [efforts] and doesn’t want people arrested. ‘Fess up…There’s an acceptable level of death on his watch and he should admit that.”
Another John Jay professor, Maria Haberman, said, “The only way that is effective in curbing violent behavior is saturated patrol, not using community members.”
“I would not recommend sending inexperienced members of the community to areas where they can become victims of shootings or other violent exchanges,” she said.
“Community members might be willing, but they do not have the experience. What you are doing is exposing community members to random violence.”
Honestly, the mayor’s plan sounds more like a public relations effort than a public safety plan, and they also run afoul of his newly-imposed COVID-19 measures. Despite the mayor’s closure of city parks and a ban on all large gatherings, de Blasio says he wants to hold pick-up basketball games, open up local churches, and even hold a ‘youth town hall” to combat violent crime. Does the mayor really think any drug or gang-related violence in New York will be prevented because the perpetrators will lose interest in their crime and decide to shoot hoops for a few minutes instead?
It’s clear that de Blasio is flailing to come up with something to reverse the massive increase in shootings and homicides in New York City, but the real problem is that, as Eugene O’Donnell told the Post, it’s de Blasio’s policies that have helped create the disastrous situation playing out on city streets. De Blasio’s soft-on-crime approach, coupled with the city’s draconian gun control laws, means that violent criminals are often released within hours of their arrest, even if they would be considered a danger to the community by most rational people. The city’s court system has nearly ground to a halt because of the coronavirus, which leaves hundreds of individuals charged with violent crimes walking the streets when they should be behind bars.
I hope that this weekend is calmer and more peaceful than what we’ve seen in recent weeks, but if that proves to be the case in Harlem, I’m sure that de Blasio is going to take away the wrong message and credit those community activists instead of the increased police presence.
If de Blasio was serious about reducing the spiking violence, there are a couple of things he could do. In the short term, get the courts functioning again, particularly when it comes to violent crimes. Reduce the number of plea bargains offered, and end plea bargains for repeat violent offenders or those facing murder and attempted murder charges. End the no-bail policy that returns many suspected criminals to the streets almost immediately, even if they have a history of violence and pose a threat to the community.
In the medium and long term, the mayor should be overhauling the city’s gun laws to get rid of the discriminatory and prohibitively expensive gun licenses, establishing a shall-issue system for concealed carry licenses, and reaching out to a broad array of pro-2A groups to develop a plan to bring back a culture of responsible gun ownership in the city. For decades now, the Second Amendment has been pushed to the margins of society instead of being recognized as a fundamental right of New Yorkers. It’s time to change that, though I know de Blasio would put on a “Make America Great Again” hat before he’d ever support the right of New Yorkers to keep and bear arms.